FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Basketball and bourbon — two Kentucky staples — weren't immune to the fallout from the new coronavirus Thursday.
State high school basketball tournaments were postponed Thursday and tours at Jim Beam and Maker's Mark distilleries will be temporarily suspended starting next week.
Eight cases of infection with the virus have been diagnosed in Kentucky.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has urged people to avoid large crowds in an effort to mitigate spread of the virus. The high school basketball tournaments are big draws in this basketball-loving state.
The girls' state tournament, already under way, was cut short and next week's boys' tournament also was postponed indefinitely by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
"The association will try and seek options for rescheduling later in the spring if at all possible, but not until after we have received collaborative approval from our governor's office, the commissioner of public health and the Kentucky Department of Education," the KHSAA said in a statement.
Showing the fluidity of the situation, the governing body for Kentucky high school athletics initially said Thursday that it would place "an extreme limit" on fans attending the games.
That soon changed to postponement. In its followup announcement to postpone the games, the group said : "Our intention was to attempt to complete this first tournament with restrictions, however, this does not appear to be a wise option at this time and is not in the best interest of the student-athletes and the thousands of individuals who attend these events."
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, but for a few people, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. More than 120,000 people have been infected worldwide, with more than 4,700 deaths, but the vast majority recover within weeks. Across the U.S., cases now number more than 1,300.
Meanwhile, several more Kentucky school districts announced Thursday that classes were being canceled temporarily. The decision to close schools has been up to local districts. Schools have been closed this week in Harrison County, where five residents tested positive for coronavirus.
The governor has asked school districts to develop plans to allow schools to close on short notice if necessary. Beshear has endorsed legislation to help cushion districts from potentially long closures. The measure would add 10 days of closure that districts wouldn't have to make up, he said.
Meanwhile, spirits producer Beam Suntory said tours would be suspended temporarily starting Monday at its Jim Beam American Stillhouse and Maker's Mark Distillery in Kentucky.
"We understand that this may be disappointing to our fans and we apologize for any inconvenience," the company said. "Please be assured that we are taking this action out of an abundance of caution because the health and well-being of our employees and loyal brand fans is paramount. We look forward to resuming tours in the future."
Bourbon tourism has become big business in Kentucky, which produces 95% of the world's bourbon.
Meanwhile, Beshear said Thursday that 16 Kentucky residents were on the cruise ship that was forced to idle for days off the California coast because of a cluster of coronavirus cases.
The Kentuckians have all tested negative for the virus, the governor said. They're being returned to Kentucky and will go into self-isolation, he said.
"We want to return them with their families and get them back to home as safely and quickly as we can," said Dr. Steven Stack, the state's public health commissioner.